Israeli fashion stylist and blogger Liraz Cohen came to the Helene G. Simon Hillel Center this week to deliver a lecture about contemporary Israeli fashion.
Cohen studied at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is pursuing a master’s degree in global fashion management at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
Cohen brought an array of garments with her, which added to the overall interactive experience of her presentation.
Before she started traveling and giving talks, she ran the training department at Zara Israel. She was also the director of Israel programming at Duke University Hillel.
Cohen’s program focuses on the history and evolution of Israeli fashion. Key points she covers are how Israeli fashion has changed since the country’s inception in 1948 and the possibilities for the future and how it has grown and changed throughout the years.
“I am trying to look at the culture of Israel and find trends and movements and find Israel’s identity,” Cohen said.
When asked why she travels around giving these lectures, Cohen said, “I built this lecture for students because I wanted to show Israel in a different light besides politics and conflicts.”
Cohen pinpoints the two main problems in defining Israeli fashion. First, the country was established only in 1948, so there was a lapse in fashion and culture for 2000 years. Second, the new immigrants in Israel are from diverse backgrounds, coming from Russia, Turkey and Yemen.
This diversity was an issue because these new immigrants all saw fashion differently and were bringing different fashion influences with them to the new country of Israel.
During this time, there were essentially two distinct groups living in Israel. There were the Europeans living in Tel Aviv and living in the desert in the Kibbutz .
The people in Tel Aviv brought their fashion influences from Paris and Milan and had a very classic and elegant style of dress. Everyone wore white gowns, gloves, and men wore all-white three-piece suits.
The people living in the Kibbutz believed they had a greater agenda, creating the foundations and infrastructure for the new country and focusing on agriculture. These people believed in community and sharing everything, and ultimately created a community closet where everyone brought their clothes to share.
This community closet was the foundation for feminism in Israel in 1909. This was because the women were joining the men in fields outside all day and found that their jobs were completed more easily in shorts and pants. Israel was the only place that women were wearing pants in the early 20th century, thus creating the idea of the “effortless look.”
She explains that the main problem with the new country was the rate of poverty. David Ben-Gurion, the president of Israel at the time, developed a point system for citizens to purchase not only food but also fabric and clothes.
Everyone was given 85 points for the year. Pants were worth 10 points, a winter coat was 42 points and socks were three points.
Due to the minimalist style that the point system developed, bucket hats became popular because they were cheap and easy to make because they are a combination of different fabrics.
The rise of military fashion and style influences from neighboring countries in Israel came as a result of the Six-Day War in 1967.
Cohen’s presentation was interesting and informative but also allowed for comparisons between fashion in Israel and the United States. Cohen explained the popularity and trendiness of the color blue at one point in time in Israel, and the obsession over jeans and denim. We see this as well in the United States through the rise of denim in the ’90s and the return of denim that we have seen this year.